IQ is not a joke or a threat

Listen to this post:

Here’s what you need to know. Last night, I took a bus to Portland Community College (PCC). The campus is smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s the kind with old homes and no garages. So, the people who live around the campus are often using street parking. And they rightfully don’t want the college community members hogging all the spaces.

I went to Cascade Hall, a nice modern PCC building for a Disability Art and Culture Project‘s Dis/Representation lecture. By the way, when I go to DACP events, no matter where they’re held, I expect to be in a group fostering extreme amounts of disability pride. Part of the way we show pride is to not rank each other’s worth or to discuss disability as an inherently negative thing. Disability isn’t treated as threatening, though we recognize the threat that ableism plays to everyone’s well being. This is part of why I’m involved with DACP and go to their events.

A purple Portland Community College sandwich board sign with white and yellow lettering leans against a brick wall. It reads: "Parking in the neighborhood lowers your IQ. Not really. But it will cost you a ticket. $25. Ouch. Be nice to our neighbors. Please use the PCC overflow parking lots, the PCC shuttle, TriMet, or Bike. Find info on the Parking and Transportation Services web site."Imagine my surprise and disgust when I got to Cascade Hall and saw this garbage sign leaning up against the wall. Even though I’ve put the text of the sign into Alt text, I’m going to type it out here too so that no one who’s at this blog post can miss it: “Parking in the neighborhood lowers your IQ.” This is me again. Can I just stop there? Do I have to read this whole damn sign? OK. “Parking in the neighborhood lowers your IQ. Not really. But it will cost you a ticket. $25. Ouch. Be nice to our neighbors. Please use the PCC overflow parking lots, the PCC shuttle, TriMet, or Bike. Find info on the Parking and Transportation Services web site.”

I’m sorry. Did you just ask people to be nice to the neighbors in the same sign where you made a joke threat rooted in ableism and eugenics? This is an institution that exists to educate people, and they are using low IQ as a joke? I’m staring at this sign last night and staring at it again now and struggling to find why and how this is supposed to be funny and at all useful.

Don’t forget: Low IQ has been used as a justification to inflict all manner of ableist and racist practices and policies on people including forced sterilization and denial of immigration. Bear in mind that in many cases, nobody even tested IQ. They just have always managed to use low IQ as a proxy term for someone who’s unwanted. Maybe they’re poor, the family was ashamed of them for some reason, or their skin was too dark. Call them feeble-minded, and somehow it would be universally accepted that the they’re no good as humans.

We call people idiots and morons all the time when, in reality, the heart of it is we disagree with them and desperately want to be correct and therefore somehow superior. And we mistakenly think that “smart” equals high IQ and “stupid” equals low IQ while failing to consider the relevance or inaccessibility of the tests or all of the factors that affect people’s performances on tests. I one time had a neuropsychologist tease me for getting an answer wrong on an IQ test. And then I had to take a personality test where I came across as angry and moody and unstable. Yeah, because Dr. McGiggles just made fun of me, thank you very much. I throw that out there just to point out how ridiculous it is to think that this test is some kind of indisputable measure performed in a uniform, sterile way (and because I have always wanted to tell people about that and all the other BS that’s inflicted on people when they take cognitive assessments; I could go on with those stories).

PCC, clean up your garbage. This sign doesn’t belong on a college campus that wants to be accessible and inclusive. It doesn’t belong anywhere.